Finding oneself

The author, enamoured of her mixed blood, sets out for India to study her ancestors
Finding oneself
Finding oneself

The book under review positively reels under the evocative weight of its subtitle. &ldquoWhat I know are fragments,&rdquo Shepard writes in her prologue, &ldquoI am here to weave them together, to create a new story, a story uniquely my own.&rdquo

Sadia Shepard is someone whose rich and complex inner life is clearly a source of endless fascination &mdash at least to Sadia Shepard. She is absolutely enamoured of her mixed blood. Everything around her seems to be hell-bent on reflecting back to herself her own story. Sitting at the Film Institute in Pune, a friend, Rekhev, describes what used to happen here, in the following, choice, words &ldquo&lsquoPlace memory,&rsquo he says. &lsquoThe imprint of past action on an environment. We are surrounded by ghosts here.&rsquo&rdquo

In a library, she chances upon a book about Amrita Sher-Gil, and it, too, becomes a mirror &ldquoI look at her picture, tracing her Hungarian parent in her face, then her Indian one. A half-half person. Like me.&rdquo A simple instruction from her mother &mdash &ldquoCome home&rdquo &mdash becomes a heartfelt plea to fulfil an impossible destiny, an opportunity to dwell on the inherent complexity of the term.

The book is the story of the fulfilling of a promise, made to her grandmother as she lay dying (and helpfully reiterated even after she is dead, in a series of dreams) &ldquoGo to India, study your ancestors.&rdquo Her grandmother, Nana, is a touchstone for young Sadia, a spinner of tales, a secret-keeper, a repository of timeless wisdom in whose dual identity (she was a Bene Israeli Jew who changed her name, and religion, to marry a Muslim man) the author finds yet another echo of herself.

She writes episodes in her Nana&rsquos life in the present continuous &mdash a sneaky trick to make you think that this is actually what her grandmother thought, this is actually what happens. I don&rsquot buy it not for a minute. &ldquoNana looks up at him, her eyes filling with tears. She loves him too much for her own good, she thinks.&rdquo I mean, really. Really

The Girl from Foreign traces a particularly American journey a journey to &lsquofind oneself&rsquo, to come to terms with stuff in one&rsquos past, to achieve &lsquoclosure&rsquo. It&rsquos possibly a valid course of psychotherapy, but it doesn&rsquot make for a terribly good book.

Unlike, for example, Mrinal Hajratwala&rsquos Leaving India, the reader is left feeling like she knows rather too much about the author and precious little about anything else.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller